Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mount Pilchuck Sunshine 10-18-2011

Lucky planning resulted in a second consecutive day of blue sky hiking in the Cascade Mountains!

Tuesday morning dawned with crystal clear skies, so as soon as the family was off to work and school I made my way south to Mount Pilchuck State Park for the 5.25 miles and 2,100 feet of elevation gain trail to the fire lookout cabin atop the mountain.

Despite the clear skies and the delay in the fall colors, the fresh snow up on Mount Baker the day before combined with this sign posted at the Pilchuck trail head really drives home the fact that summer isn't just over... winter will be here before we know it.

Until then, let's just keep enjoying the sun and the colors.

Even though it was a weekday in October there were plenty of other hikers on the trail for company . I wonder how much impact a 9% unemployment rate has on the frequency of week day trail usage.

The temps were pleasant, but this trailside tarn wasn't the first or last ice of the day.

According to StateParks.com:
"The word "Pilchuck" comes from the Native American name "red water," for a creek in the area.

Shortly thereafter the trail emerges from the trees and into the basin, offering views to the summit (and the lookout if you have a good zoom camera or binoculars). This is also where there used to be a small ski area which stopped operations in the early 1980's (due to lack of adequate snow to support a profitable venture).

Noticed the moon was following me today. Not sure what that means, but it must have been a good thing because the day was FANTASTIC!

Came across a group on the back side of the ridge. They were having a blast and provided much entertainment at the lookout. Also, they are in a number of shots used in the video further down in this trip report.

On with the pictures...

The Lookout was built in 1918 by the Forest Service and was used until sometime in the 1960's. Currently, the Forest Service is resposnible for trail maintenance and the Mountaineers Club of Seattle volunteers to maintain the historic lookout building.

You may have noted that the Lookout is looking pretty pristine in the photos. For the most part, this is because it received some necessary repairs a new coat of paint just a month or two ago. Much of that work was prompted by the fact that some hooligans decided it would be a good idea to vandalize the lookout... and then post pictures about it on facebook. The heroes over at nwhikers.net managed to piece the puzzle pieces together and alerted the authorities and the heroes at the Mountaineers organized a short notice work party to put the universe back in order. Kudos to you all!

Enjoy a few series of 'continuous' photos from the basin and also from inside the lookout in this video. So unbelievable (the scenery, NOT my video skills)!

The Mt. Pilchuck trail is very diverse. It begins in forest, with creeks and waterfalls before ascending to a minor talus/boulder field and then opening up to an alpine wonderland. Hike at the base of cliffs. Hike on the crest of ridges. Pull yourself up and over boulders and finally climb a ladder to claim victory. What more could a hiker ask for?

With all that to offer, Pilchuck is a very poplular destination. Please keep in mind that just because it is popular and easy to access doesn't mean that it is free of risks or dangers. Each year many people sustain injuries and need the assistance of Search & Rescue teams. Each year people make a wrong turn on a trail and end up lost. Please... bring the 'ten essentials' with you and be aware of your surroundings. The little bit of extra weight in your pack isn't going to ruin your day hike and it may be of good use to you (or someone else) when you least expect it.

Here is the route map and trail profile from this hike:

Thanks for reading and Happy Trails to you all!


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